The All-Important Motorcycle Wave

Hysterical article about the motorcycle wave 😉

November 20, 2013



It was August and I was riding a newly acquired Honda Rebel, my first motorcycle. Riding north on Mills Avenue in Claremont, California, a generously wide, two-lane road with a center turning lane, I saw a motorcycle in the distance riding toward me. This was it, the moment for my induction into the brotherhood of riders, my chance for my first motorcycle wave. As the other motorcyclist approached he casually removed his left hand from his handlebars and threw me a tasteful two-finger salute, arm extended slightly below the level of his grip. My response was to violently and awkwardly throw my clenched fist into the air at a slight diagonal, kind of like a Jersey Shore dance move but on a motorcycle, going 45 mph. It was awkward and completely ridiculous, but I felt the connection. To me, that wave was affirmation that I had been seen an honest to God motorcyclist, who had been acknowledged by another as one of their own.

My wave needed work and after a few years, a lot of miles and much trial and error, I have developed a bit more of a tasteful and subdued greeting. Here is the genesis of how my signature wave came about.

fist pump
1) The Jersey Pump
I believe that I am the sole motorcyclist to ever preform this maneuver and it should stay that way. It should also stay in the past where it belongs on that early ride on Mills Avenue. In my opinion, unless you are being led into battle by William Wallace, the fist pump is as overboard as one can get. Calm down bud!

2) Howdy! How Ya Doin’?
This is the elevated, straight-armed, open-handed wave. It is also a greeting that I see on the road fairly often. This wave is pleasant and well meaning at its core and it is one that I also tried to adapt early on. The problem is that this wave comes off as the equivalent of an over-enthusiastic cafeteria crush. Flattering but still a bit overboard for a total stranger.

peace sign
3) Hey…
Finally, there is the mostly extended, slightly-below-the-bars, two-fingered, “Hey.” After a few tries, I decided that this was the pinnacle of motorcycle greetings. It is polite, casual and, yeah, it looks cool-ish too. This wave simply says, “Hey, have a good one,” and leaves it at that. Its beauty is enhanced by the fact that it allows the rider to more or less maintain the shape of the grip with his hand while waving and keeping his arm close to the controls. It’s the one I use and bet many of you do too.

4) DIY
The greeting you use to signal to fellow riders should be yours and it should reflect your personality. By all means, if you are a freak, go for the Jersey Pump. The main thing is that we are a community of riders and saying, “Hey” keeps us that way. So create a signature wave, practice it and own it when you ride.

When I’m on the road I make a point to always acknowledge fellow riders when I can do so safely. I even wave at the people with the weird Mohawk thing on their helmets. I may not understand their affinity for this interesting accessory but what I do understand is that we share a passion for motorcycles.

So tell me, what kind of wave do you use?

Author: advgrrl

Avid ADV rider! This Blog is all about the adventure in adventure riding. Researching new bikes, routes, accessories, learning about other riders and hopefully a great place for others to comment and explore with me. PLUS, up and down's, wildlife, my dogs, my life!

13 thoughts on “The All-Important Motorcycle Wave”

  1. Ha ha somewhere between 2 and 3 but trending more to 3. On our trips there are still a lot of riders who wave but a lot that don’t. Me, I still choose to wave at all bikes, no matter what response I get.

  2. My first instinct was to write something sarcky like “we’re British, we don’t wave” but the truth of the matter is that we drive on the left, which means our waving hand is also our throttle hand. So we either nod, or do the head tilt.

      1. Assuming you are alluding to the whole Kool-Aid vs Orange Crush thing (which brings to mind our consumeristic first world problems making difficult life decisions such as Apple vs Windows, Honda vs Toyota, Playstation vs Xbox etc)—when I was out solo in Salisbury Plain, I encountered an exuberant pair on some fancy new orange machines… the first rode straight past with a sullen glare, the second with a pleasant wave. Figured the puddles had caused electrical issues for the first chap so I’ll let him off 😉

      2. “Wingers” (Goldwing Riders) rarely wave, I assume it’s because they are playing with one of the bazillion gadgets they have

      3. Haha agreed on that one – however I have seen exactly ONE goldwing on the road in the UK in nearly 10 years of motorbiking here, and it was stuck in traffic at Shepherd’s Bush Green unable to filter through the cars… as much as it is among the most sumptuous bikes on the road, and more capable than it should be for its size, it is an inappropriate machine for the types of roads we have in this country so Honda only sells a handful each year (some dealerships still have stock of 2007 models!) – reportedly less than 25 in 2012… I’m pretty sure they sold several times than many in Canada which has half the population and a much shorter riding season (with the exception of the Vancouver area).

  3. Yeah, I’m British. Here, the bikers nod is customary, but the ‘how’ waves also sometimes makes an appearance. I notice in France, it’s the left leg out sign, which can just mean ‘hi’ or ‘thank you’ to any vehicle that allows you to pull in, or filter! Some bikers, refuse to acknowledge mopeds or scooters, dunno why, a cheery nod, doesn’t
    exactly take that much effort does it?

    1. I can’t remember the last time ANYONE waved at me in the city (and vice versa) – with this in mind, it’s not often I’ve seen a scooter outside the city… so I don’t think scooter riders are being categorically excluded.

      I always found the French leg thing slightly funny, a bit ‘dog and tree’… and was so disappointed last year when I rode through France and everyone waved instead!! 😦

  4. Belated comment

    I just assumed the Harley guys are afraid to take their hands off the handle bars. Yes i wave to all scooters, mopeds and even bicycles. If you are on 2 wheels and living like a dog with your head out the window, then we are living the same experience no matter what the choices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: